Concept cars are mostly built to taunt automotive journalists, but on rare occasions they do serve legitimate purposes. Sometimes they can tip-off what a car company has in development, and the black-as-coal Kia Niro is a clue as to what the South Korean brand’s next B-Segment offering could look like.
The company’s current subcompact car is the Rio. Along with products like the Honda Fit and Ford Fiesta it’s a solid all-around vehicle. But the Niro appears to step things up in a number of ways.
First, its design is rather striking; though to be fair it is a concept car. It’s got a raised hood, two scissor-style side doors and a convenient hatch to access its rear storage area. It also features a unique blend of materials including shiny stainless steel.
The car is aimed directly at European customers who typically appreciate small, efficient vehicles due to high fuel prices and urban congestion. Interestingly it was designed at Kia’s studio in Frankfurt, Germany so there could be some home-continent appeal to it.
Under the hood, this baby is hauled around by an “innovative new powertrain,” which is a 1.6-liter T-GDi engine with hybrid electric drive. The gasoline engine is a variant of the Korean automaker’s turbocharged Gamma engine and and features 158 horsepower. The electric-hybrid system delivers up to 44 horsepower to the rear wheels. The engine is mated to a seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission.
It also features “intriguing elements” that the company claims aren’t typically found in small cars. The interior, for example, features one-piece molded seats covered in a techno-look “Orbit Silver” line-quilted textile. According to Kia, the clam-shell seat-backs tilt to allow access to a two-seat, 50-50 split bench in the rear. Showing off some high-tech equipment is a super-vision digital instrument binnacle that can be formatted and switched to provide the information the driver finds important. It features all the main instruments, though additional info can be displayed on a center console-mounted screen. The screen also allows drivers to see and record live pictures from the video cameras mounted at the front, rear, and mirrors of the concept. How’s that for creepy?
“We would love nothing more than to see all of our concept designs on the streets of Frankfurt or London or Paris tomorrow,” said Gregory Guillaume, Chief Designer at Kia’s Frankfurt office. “As Kia looks to add to its range of small cars for this future European market you have to look at where the market opportunities exist and how we can exploit them. Perhaps Niro answers that challenge,” he added.
The Kia Niro is designed to gauge customer interest for future products.
GALLERY: Kia Niro Concept Live Shots
GALLERY: Kia Niro Concept
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